HMO ER CARE: Elderly Heart Attack Patients Treated Well
New research shows that elderly myocardial infarction patients receive "equal or better emergency care" from not-for-profit HMOs than they do under fee-for-service care. The study of more than 2,000 elderly heart admissions, conducted at 20 Minnesota hospitals by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and the St. Paul, MN-based Healthcare Education & Research Foundation , appears in the Sept. 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. HMOs scored better in areas such as treatment delays, use of emergency transportation, time to electrocardiogram, and use of therapies such as thrombolytics, aspirin and beta blockers, and "were comparable to fee-for-service plans in all other aspects of the study" (onhealth/Alabama Live, 9/27). Lead researcher Stephen Soumerai of Harvard attributed HMOs' relatively high performance to 24-hour telephone lines, education programs that encourage patients to use emergency transportation, quality improvement systems like clinical pathways and the fact that HMOs are "more likely to employ younger physicians, who may have more up-to-date knowledge about the safety and efficacy of newer drug treatments." Cathy Borbas, executive director of the Healthcare Education and Research Foundation, said, "While it has been popular to criticize HMOs in recent years, the study shows they facilitate care as good as -- if not better -- than traditional, fee-for-service insurance." The study was funded by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (Healthcare Education & Research Foundation release, 9/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.